Christians in Pakistan Face Ongoing Threats as Blasphemy Laws Cast a Shadow of Fear


London: (By Juliet Chowdhry and Hannah Chowdhry) Following the recent violent assault on more than 200 homes and 26 churches in Jaranwala, another disturbing episode has unfolded in which yet another blasphemy allegation has been leveled against Christians.

The alarming incident is compounded by the ominous threats made by certain Muslims to incite a mob attack reminiscent of the Jaranwala tragedy, leading to the potential destruction of innocent Christian homes.

Unveiling a disconcerting twist, it has been revealed that the threat to raze the homes of Christian residents in Dhok Syeedan was in fact an elaborate attempt to extort money from his own vulnerable Christian familiy by an individual who had converted to Islam.

While prompt police intervention succeeded in averting a catastrophe, it is crucial to recognize that addressing these concerns requires sustained effort.

The Christian community in Pakistan continues to live in fear under the shadow of the country’s stringent blasphemy laws. A distressing incident in Rawalpindi, reminiscent of the tragedy in Jaranwala, underscores the ongoing challenges faced by Christians in the nation.

On the night of Thursday, August 24th, the Christian residents of Dhok Syeedan in Rawalpindi found themselves forced to lock their homes and flee to safety. The cause for this exodus was a baseless rumor that their homes were to be set ablaze due to alleged blasphemy committed by Christians in the area. Reports indicate that over 90% of the Christian residents left their homes in response to the false alarm.

The Pakistani police and law enforcement agencies promptly intervened to rectify the situation, preventing the potential violence and ensuring the safety of the community. It was revealed that the rumor was ignited by a dispute between two brothers, one of whom had converted from Christianity to Islam. The converted brother, having financial grievances, sought revenge through false accusations of blasphemy, enlisting the support of Muslim clerics to further his agenda.

The converted individual, previously known as Sagar Masih and now identified as Raza Ahmad, had borrowed 400,000 Rs. (£1045) from someone and, allegedly unable to repay the loan, had converted to Islam in July 2023. He demanded a share of his family’s inheritance, which was denied, leading him to accuse his family of blasphemy and producing burnt Quranic papers as evidence.

On the eve of the incident, Raza Ahmad called his family and, in a menacing tone, threatened to emulate the tragic events of Jaranwala by burning their homes and church. A local mosque then announced that Christians had desecrated the Quran, calling for collective action after Friday prayers to burn down Christian homes in a manner similar to the Jaranwala incident.

Prompt action from law enforcement agencies, including the Rangers and police, prevented the situation from escalating into violence. Police presence remained strong in Dhok Syeedan following the incident to ensure the safety of those who chose to remain in their homes.

Federal Minister for Human Rights, Mr. Khalil George, and senior police officials visited Dhok Syeedan, underscoring the need to thwart attempts to create conflict between Muslims and Christians through false rumors.

The Christian community’s swift response to a baseless rumor highlights the underlying fears and vulnerability that persist in the wake of incidents like the Jaranwala tragedy, where hundreds of houses and around 26 churches were set ablaze on August 16th, 2023, despite the presence of law enforcement officers.

The recent incident in Dhok Syeedan, Rawalpindi, has garnered responses from religious leaders and officials alike, shedding light on the plight of Christians in Pakistan and the pressing need for communal harmony.

Mr. Liaqat Masih, a pastor at a local church, expressed during an interview, “We had already alerted the city management, and their prompt response was vital. The residents are gripped by fear, and many have left their homes as a precautionary measure.”

Another pastor weighed in, noting, “Incidents like this appear to be a deliberate conspiracy against Christians in Pakistan. It’s disheartening to witness such acts.”

Federal Minister for Human Rights, Mr. Khalil George, accompanied by senior police officials, visited Dhok Syeedan to engage with the affected community. He stated, “Rumors of this nature are designed to incite tension between Muslims and Christians. We must remain vigilant and not succumb to unfounded rumors.”

Suprintendant of Police, Mr. Muhammad Waqas Khan, also made an appearance in Dhok Syeedan. He met with residents and assured them of their safety in the face of any potential incidents that could endanger the lives and properties of the Christian community. He emphasized that citizens should refrain from reacting to baseless rumors, which can sow unnecessary panic.

The recent incident serves as a poignant reminder that effective policing is but one facet of a comprehensive approach, especially given the deep-seated fears rooted in years of inaction and indifference.

The wave of blasphemy allegations and the subsequent threats expose the precarious position of the Christian community in Pakistan. These events underscore the need for a multifaceted strategy that not only addresses immediate crises but also addresses the long-standing issues that have cultivated an environment of fear and vulnerability among the Christian population.

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:

“The harrowing incident in Jaranwala has sent shockwaves throughout the Christian community nationwide.

“The rapid response by the community to the recent rumor underscores the latent fears harbored by Christians, who often feel vulnerable even when law enforcement is present.

“The tragic events in Jaranwala on August 16th, where numerous houses and approximately 26 churches were set ablaze, despite the presence of police officers, has left a profound impact on the Christian community.

“The assertion that Christians should simply disregard baseless rumors is oversimplistic, especially given the existing evidence that underscores the perilous consequences such rumors can entail.

These falsehoods have been shown to inflame radicalized individuals, fanning the flames of intolerance within certain segments of the Muslim population and contributing to an already volatile atmosphere.”

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